The taxi drops us at Praca Santos Dumont near the Jardim Botanico in the southern part of Rio.“Wow that’s cool!” says Anouk, as she points to the wall across the street. “Carioca street art, check it out!”
While Anouk takes photos of the urban art, I locate the offices of Ana Couto Branding.
Inside, the receptionist makes a quick call and within two minutes Ana is walking down to meet us, dressed in stylish black with a professional edge. “Welcome to Gavea, the bohemian part of Rio,” she says with a smile. “This is where the city’s creative crowd meets.”
We follow her into a spacious meeting room and sit down at one end of the large table. As Ana serves us tall glasses of iced water, we explain our interest in branding and our global search for visionaries and leaders of change, always with a specific focus on the “three Ps” – People, Planet, Profit.
Ana smiles quietly as she fills the glasses, “I think we’re going to have a lot in common!” she says, and before we can ask what she means, she continues, “So how are you finding the Brazilian branding scene so far?”
Meeting Ana Couto in Rio de Janeiro
“Well actually we’ve noticed that there aren’t many agencies that specialize just in branding,” I say.“Why is that?”
“Do you remember the slogan ‘Advertising is dead’ a few years ago in the U.S. and Europe?”
“Well here in Brazil that’s not the case,” Ana says. “We’re in a different phase. Advertising is big business; the CEOs of agencies are signing autographs in supermarkets,” she jokes.
“So how come you’re not in advertising then?” I ask.
“When I lived in New York, I worked with brands that were global or aspired to be global.Then I came back to Brazil, and found that there was not a single global brand. I felt Brazil was not part of the rise of global brands – everything stayed local.”
“How do you explain that?” asks Anouk.
“It was the mindset. People were thinking ‘business’, not ‘branding’. I saw a great opportunity in that: huge companies with no brands – imagine what an untapped market!”
“But how do you approach that market?” I ask. “How do you make these companies aware that they can grow further by building a brand around their product?”
“Well that’s where it gets interesting,” says Ana. “My background is in anthropology, and in my work today I use a creative business approach. I work with CEOs or company owners and I simply start out by asking them why they do what they do: what is their purpose and what do they stand for – like a real anthropologist.
“How do you see the branding scene in Brazil evolving?” Anouk asks.
“I believe branding will become more important as businesses expand into global markets. In the end, companies don’t want to just produce raw material and commodities; they want to be brands. This allows them to ask premium prices for their products.”
“So you believe brands create value in a sense?” I ask.
“Absolutely,” says Ana,” but ‘brand value’ is more than the sum of brand’s assets. Investing in your brand creates value: it makes people willing to pay a premium price for your product.”
“Beyond just monetary value though, do you believe brands fulfill a social role as well?” Anouk asks.
“Oh definitely!” says Ana. “Just look at the global influence of Facebook or Google and how they changed the way we communicate. Once brands find a purpose and take responsibility, they can make a huge difference! But the purpose can’t just be ‘make money’ – it has to fit within the principle of the three P’s: People, Planet, Profit.”
“Now we’re talking!” says Anouk. “This is exactly our belief and what we are trying to explain to brands around the world!”
Ana laughs. “I told you we were going to have a lot in common! Why don’t we head out for a drink and a bit to eat? I can show you the cool parts of Gavea and we can discuss the future of branding in Brazil!”
© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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